From the Harford County Chamber of Commerce:
On Thursday, April 28th, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce hosted their Annual Legislative Wrap Up Breakfast at Harford Community College. The event was sponsored by the Greater Harford Committee, Harford County Office of Community & Economic Development, and Harford Community College; the event featured a panel of Harford County’s elected officials. Dr. Jacqueline Jackson, Vice-President of Student Success, Harford Community College, welcomed us to the campus and shared some updates about the campus. Dr. Jackson was able to share that HCC was able to freeze tuition this year. The college is seeing an increasing number of high school students utilizing dual enrollment programs during their final years of high school. Leading Edge programs such as cyber security are growing as well.
Senators Bob Cassilly and J.B. Jennings, Delegates Teresa Reilly, Lauren Arikan, Mary Ann Lisanti, Mike Griffith, and Susan K. McComas were in attendance and served on the panel. Senator Jason Gallion, and Delegates Rick Impallaria, Steve Johnson, and Kathy Szeliga were unable to attend. Each panelist gave their debrief on the 2022 Maryland General Assembly Session and then responded to questions from the audience.
Senator Bob Cassilly has been the Senate Chairmen for the last 8 years. He shared that there are 4 standing committees in the Legislature. On three of the four standing committees Harford County has ranking members one each. This is a HUGE accomplishment for Harford County. This year he said he spent a lot of his time playing defense, working on delaying and amending bad bills. Senator Cassilly talked about one of the housing bills that is going to cause more issues for landlords and possibly push out those good landlords that we need here in Maryland. He stated that we need more of those good landlords not less. This bill would give only two options for housing: 1) public housing or 2) private landlord.
Senator J.B. Jennings talked about the passing of the Climate Solutions Act, which would eliminate fossil fuels in the next 10 years, meaning that the use of gas stoves or hearing would no longer be able to be used. The biggest issue with this is the heating of large commercial and office space that will not be able to be sustained with an electronic heating type system. This will cause many issues not only in current buildings but also in the future building of homes and commercial spaces. There is a lot of work that is going to be needed to be done on this bill before it would take effect.
Delegate Lauren Arikan again this year talked about the importance of safety. The counties that are having safety issues are counties that people are moving out of. The safer the county is the more money that will be spent the area. Harford County is doing a good job of keeping the county safe for its citizens. It was shared that a new gun bill in progress that could cause some issues for home bases gun sales businesses. This bill focused on the storage of guns and would make running an in-home gun selling business next to impossible.
Delegate Arikan was eager to share about a bill that passed that will have social workers on cite at certain crime scenes. This bill may cause issues especially in a domestic violence situation. Crime is starting to creep out of other counties and although this bill may not impact Harford County directly, it will affect Maryland. With this year being an elections year, there are a few bills that will hopefully cycle back to the next legislative session, one such bill being the increase of taxes for small businesses, which in turn will affect voters.
Delegate Teresa Reilly shared with the group that District 35 A will be going through a bit of a boundary change after this legislative season. She also shared that there will be a property tax credit for the elderly, veterans, and surviving spouses. This credit will hopefully help to keep those individuals from relocating out of Maryland. There also was a bill on Medicaid Assistance for EMS reimbursement; the reimbursement will be raised to $150; this is the first increase of this kind since 1999. This bill allows for a reimbursement, even if the patient is not taken to the hospital. Another health bill that was brought up and did pass was the HGO abortion bill. The request was to add this bill to the Maryland constitution did not pass. This bill mandated that insurance cover 100% of abortions paid by taxpayers as well as additional training for abortions did pass.
Delegate Reilly was very passionate about the School Psychologist Bill; this bill was originally introduced by a high school student whose friend who committed suicide. Currently, Maryland Schools are supposed to have one psychologist for every 500-700 students, most schools have one for every 1,200 students. They are trying to introduce a workforce certification to encourage more people to become School Psychologies. The bill passed through the house but did not make it to the senate this session, plans are for it be brought forward next year.
Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti said that this session a retirement tax credit was passed; it will credit up to $100,000 for someone who files independently or $150,00 for dual filers. Another tax credit that passed was the surviving spouse credit for the spouses of fallen soldiers.
In this session, it was passed to increase the budget for libraries, public schools, and transportation. The restaurant assistance bill provides less expensive options for liquor licenses.
In the state of Maryland, there are about 1 million residents with hearing impairments. The Hearing Aid Access Bill allows tracking of those individuals to the proper hearing aids and assistance that they need.
Delegate Mike Griffith shared about the recent gas tax vacation, saying that the higher the gas prices, the higher the gas tax. It was proposed to extend the tax vacation for another 45 days, allowing them to slowly introduce the tax back, but that was overturned. That is why the gas prices jumped $0.37 overnight.
Delegate Griffith also talked about the Juvenile interrogation bill; this prevents police officers from asking incriminating questions to a child under 18 unless they have an attorney present. If it is found that they have asked such questions the officer can be charged criminally. A child must be arrested by the office and wait for an attorney to be available to be present during the questioning. This bill will cause young people to end up waiting in jail longer for an attorney to become available.
The local control of the Board of Education Bill was proposed and is currently in progress. It was proposed that the power to elect to be placed on the County Executive rather than the Governor. Funding was approved for The Miracle League of Harford County to put in lights at Miracle Field in Bel Air. This will allow games and events to take place during the evenings just like most recreation leagues. This will be a wonderful advantage for the young people in this organization.
Lastly, we heard from Delegate Susan McComas. She shared that there were two bills passed to help the detection and treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia. Funding will be allocated to help find ways to better detect the disease and then identify facilities to give the specialized treatment infusions. McComas also talked about a bill that is still in the works. This bill would require those renewing health care licenses must take a class in child abuse and neglect.
Finally, there were questions from the audience concerning the implementation and impacts of the Family Leave Act,
https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/SB0275 that tax money will start going into the fund in 2024, but the program will start in 2025. The bill is not currently a finished bill but was passed knowing that there is a lot of work that needs to be done before it takes effect. A lot of questions have come up, such as how a business finds a 12-week temp to cover for that person out on leave. Who is eligible for this leave? Any person or persons who have worked at least 680 hours in the previous year would be eligible. Anyone who has met this requirement is eligible even if they have transferred to a different job at any time. The employee can request this time off without even working a day at the new job. This bill will cost $561 million dollars in the first year. For businesses or employees, there is no option to opt-out.